Letting children override parents on Covid hits strikes at the heart of family life, writes LIZ COLE – .

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Letting children override parents on Covid hits strikes at the heart of family life, writes LIZ COLE – .


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After 18 long months, during which parents have seen their authority over their children constantly undermined – by politicians and the medical profession – over Covid restrictions at school and at home, this suggests that we have taken a step forward what’s more.

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi confirmed that young people aged 12 to 15 to whom the Covid vaccine could be canceled could override their parents’ wishes “if they are deemed competent to make this decision, with all the information available” .

His words horrified me, striking as they do at the heart of family life – an area in which the state should only intervene with extreme caution.

Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith is right to warn of the bitter disputes that could ensue within families.

For me, the question is clear; who is in the best position to determine the best medical treatment for a child – the parents or a government minister?

After 18 long months, during which parents have seen their authority over their children constantly shaken – by politicians and the medical profession – in the face of Covid restrictions at school and at home, this suggests that we have taken a step forward moreover, writes LIZ COLE

I have two children aged 12 and 13. They are smart, caring and responsible.

But I wouldn’t want them to make their own decisions about the potential risks of vaccination sooner than I would want them to decide to buy alcohol or take driving lessons.

They just aren’t old enough yet. Don’t get me wrong, I had my two Covid shots.

And my children have received all of their major vaccines: including polio, measles, tetanus and other very serious diseases that can ruin – and in some cases even end – young lives.

However, the question of whether or not to give Covid bites to under-16s is, I believe, much more complex: after all, the experts themselves disagree.

Earlier this month, schools and the NHS were tasked with developing detailed plans to vaccinate high school students.

But then the Joint Committee on Immunization and Immunization (JCVI) refused to support immunization of children on medical grounds only.

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi has confirmed that young people aged 12 to 15 who may be canceled Covid vaccine could override their parents' wishes

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi confirmed that young people aged 12 to 15 to whom the Covid vaccine could be canceled could override their parents’ wishes “if they are deemed competent to make this decision, with all the information available” . Above: Public Health England yesterday released a guide to Covid-19 vaccination for children and young people

Now, after a review of the evidence – this time taking into account the impact of Covid on broader issues affecting the health and well-being of children such as schooling and social activities, the Kingdom’s four chief medical officers – Uni agreed that children between the ages of 12 and 15 should be offered a first dose of the Pfizer / BioNTech jab.

The move has been touted as a way to reduce the risk of another extended lockdown this fall and winter – including the risk of school closures.

Vaccination, we are told, could prevent around 30,000 infections in this roughly three million age group in England over the next six months and save 110,000 otherwise missed school days.

But for individual children, the problem may be less clear.

It is now firmly established that healthy children are very unlikely to fall seriously ill with Covid.

We also know that the majority of children who have received Covid injections have not experienced any major side effects.

But there is evidence of a link between vaccines and a condition known as myocarditis or inflammation of the heart muscle in very few cases.

The risk would be higher in boys. No wonder the experts disagreed on the best course of action.

And the point is, if even the best-informed scientists and doctors can’t agree, how on earth can a 12-year-old be expected to resolve contradictions and uncertainties over whether or not to have the Covid vaccine?

I think it is immoral to ask young people to make such a decision.

To justify their proposals, the ministers cite an obscure 1980s law originally introduced to allow adolescent girls to obtain contraception without their parents’ consent.

For me, the question is clear;  who is in the best position to determine the best medical treatment for a child - the parents or a government minister?

For me, the question is clear; who is in the best position to determine the best medical treatment for a child – the parents or a government minister?

Under what is known as “Gillick Competence”, those under 16 can make their own decisions about medical treatment if they can demonstrate that they have the capacity to consent.

But I don’t see Gillick’s skill as having any relevance here. Contraception and vaccination against an infectious disease is quite another thing: to eliminate one with the other is a matter of pure political opportunism.

In addition, 12-year-olds and young adolescents are very easily influenced. They are likely to listen to all kinds of role models – some good, some not so – when in the vast majority of cases, the people who have their best interests at heart are probably their parents.

Let me be clear. I strongly support the state’s right to intervene in the medical treatment of children in exceptional circumstances, such as when, for example, a parent tries to prevent a vital blood transfusion for their child on religious grounds.

But vaccinating children against Covid is different; a finely balanced question with thorny arguments on both sides.

In a guidance document, the NHS itself stressed that it would rarely be appropriate or safe for a child to consent to treatment without parental involvement.

The danger of undermining this should not be underestimated.

Young adolescents and 12 year olds are vulnerable people. This is an age when reliable advice and strong boundaries are needed most.

And parents are in the best position to provide them.

We set their bedtime, tell them when they can go out and for how long, monitor their diet, and set rules for how many hours each week they can spend on their phones and other devices.

Yes, as they enter their teenage years they strive for more independence.

But they’re also under constant peer pressure online and in the playground, in danger of being persuaded by other teens or older predators to do potentially catastrophic things – like taking drugs, trying. alcohol or having sex.

Now the government seems to be giving them the chance to challenge their parents on something as critical as medical treatment – and make up their own minds based on whatever evidence or opinions they manage to glean from their parents. peers and, God forbid, the Internet.

Why, they might think, should they ever listen to their parents again on any subject?

Coming back to my opening point, young Britons have endured a year and a half of disruption and uncertainty: their education, physical and mental development and social life have all been hammered by lockdowns, school closures and the rest of the measures taken against the pandemic.

Parents have been asked to join in policies that, in too many cases, have been detrimental to their own children.

We had to keep them away from school for months and asked them to spend countless hours in front of screens for “distance learning”.

Our children have borne the brunt of the Covid restrictions. Now the government wants to tell them to make up their own minds about complex medical choices – and even to override their parents’ wishes.

The suggestion is simply unacceptable – and it must not stand.

Liz Cole is the co-founder of the children’s rights campaign group, UsForThem.

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